David Dudley relives his first season on the Bass Pro Tour and discusses his strategy. Photo by Phoenix Moore

After the last Bass Pro Tour event at Sturgeon Bay, I had a saltwater pool system installed at my home. My family and I went swimming in it and loved it. Then, all of us ended up with ear infections and had to take a trip to the doctor.

That wasn’t very enjoyable, but it got me thinking about my first season fishing the Bass Pro Tour.

I think it went pretty well. I made five Knockout Rounds, qualified for REDCREST®, and qualified for Heavy Hitters next year. It was a pretty good first year. I liked everywhere we fished, but I generally like any place I can fish for bass: Whether it’s 30 feet deep for smallies or frogging in a foot of water, I’m happy fishing.

I’m royally ticked off at myself about Sturgeon Bay, though. I had one of those 100-pound-per-day schools of smallies, but it was 50 yards behind me, and I didn’t locate it in time. Other than that, I’m pretty happy.

“Every Scorable Bass” Fits My Style

For me, switching to having every bass over 2 pounds count wasn’t difficult. I’ve always worked in areas where I can get a lot of bites, cross my fingers, and hope I catch a big one along the way. It’s very rare that you win four-day events “swinging for fences” every day. Finding areas that generate a lot of bite, tends to increase the odds of success, especially if there is a 3- or 4-pounder among the 2-pounders.

Odds of success in tournament fishing increase by setting the hook more often. I didn’t change anything entering MLF because I’ve always fished like this. My stats for the Qualifying Rounds of each stage were nuts. I did really well there.

Tournament fishing success isn’t luck; the same people come out on top year after year. When you see that, you know it voids luck, but there is definitely luck in fishing. I can flip a stump and catch a 2-pounder, and the next day someone else flips the same stump with the same bait and catches a 5-pounder.

That’s luck, but the knowledge of getting the right lure, line, flipping at the right cover, etc., at the moment of setting the hook isn’t luck, but which fish bites is luck for sure.

I Took Some Lumps in the Knockout Rounds

Overall, I was really upset about my MLF strategy during the Knockout Round. That’s where I didn’t do very well.

Previously, when I fished four-day events, day after day after day, I’d see who was fishing in the area with me, and feel the pressure. With the MLF format, I don’t necessarily know who is pressuring the fish, since we may be fishing different Qualifying Round groups.

You find all that out during the Knockout Round. Moving forward, I need to adjust how I speed up and make decisions during that round. I actually go into great detail about my MLF fishing strategy on my YouTube channel “David Dudley Outdoors.”

Anyway, I’m always playing SCORETRACKER® – it’s a very valuable tool. Anglers who let it bother them aren’t taking advantage of it. I like knowing what I’m up against and what I need to do to adjust. 

I made five Knockout Rounds in five events, which I’m very happy about. I always started strong, and then pulled back if I felt like I could make the Knockout Round, but not win the Qualifying Rounds to automatically go to the Championship Round. If I thought I could take the group, then I’d put the throttle down.

If I knew I could make it to the next round, but not win the group, then I was playing a more conservative game, practicing a bit, feeling confident knowing that if I had to put the throttle down, I could go back and fish prime area to get me to the next round. There’s so much strategy fishing on the Bass Pro Tour, and I’m okay with that.